On Borestone Mountain (for the Twelfth Time)
I always find that the first leg of the climb up Borestone Mountain, a nature preserve owned by the Audubon Society and located in Elliotsville, Maine, to be the worst for me. My legs are quick to tell me that I’m a year older than I was last time the heathens and I climbed up, and I am not likely to get any younger. It takes me a while to regulate my breathing as well as we navigate the steep lower slopes. When, this morning, we stopped for a quick water break, and I asked Rosalie whether she was working up a sweat yet, as I was, she replied in the way only a twelve-year-old girl can: “I’m in shape.” To which I informed her, “I’m forty-five.”
This is our twelfth time up the mountain. The first time, I had Rosalie in a baby backpack, and Molly carried Ben when he didn’t feel like walking anymore. We didn’t make it very far up, of course. The next year we went a bit further,
to the pond at the visitor center, which is about a mile up through the woods. (At the center, hikers going further need to sign in and pay for trail use: $4 for adults, $2 for students: a deal at half the price.) With each successive year, we covered new ground, climbed further up, until the year we at last began the hard scramble on the rocks above the tree line. Up there are a couple of tricky passages: the first time around them, I brought up the rear behind the heathens, thinking in my own misguided way that it was a safety move. Of course, Ben has always been a mountain goat, leaping from outcrop to outcrop in a way that makes a parent have frequent heart attacks; Rosalie is more cautious and thoughtful, examining each step of the climb before deciding which path is easiest and safest. In fact, that first time skirting the cliff face near the first summit, on the narrow ledge, I froze: I’ve always been afraid of heights, though I keep doing things like this in order to cure myself (let me tell you sometime how successful that’s been). Rosalie, small person that she was, was the one who turned back and talked me on: Okay, now put your hand here. Put your foot here. Following her instructions, I made it to the first summit.
The West Peak is a giant bald outcropping, from which you can see all the way back down to the base camp and nature center. The pond is lovely, as are all the other lakes that are scattered about below: blue and rippled gently from the wind which, up top,
feels as though it could toss you back down easily. The joy of going up on Columbus Day, as we always have, is that the foliage is brilliant–reds, oranges, yellows, all interspersed with the darkness of evergreens. When the sky is wide and brilliantly blue, as it was today, the clouds skittering by cast enormous shadows on the landscape below. As Rosalie said, it looks as though great patches of forest have been scorched black; but the blackness moves as the clouds blow away.
The weather has not always been cooperative on the second Monday in October, however. We have climbed up Borestone Mountain in the rain, which was absolutely miserable (but we’re stubborn people). We came up once to be met by snow flurries above the visitor center. A couple of years ago it was so foggy up top that we could see nothing–and the sounds were eerie. However, for the most part, we’ve had good luck,
just as we did today. The sun was brilliant. The sky was the blue that makes you think–for only a moment–that winter is further away than it really is. The mid-October storm which invariably comes to strip the leaves from the trees and make everything skeletal had not yet blown through. The temperature actually made it up in to the 50’s. The wind was gusty, but otherwise, everything was perfect.
Despite my elderly personage slowing us down, the three of us made good time, taking only about an hour to get all the way up and over to the second summit, bald and windswept as the first. Here the Audubon Society has placed maps, in order to enable climbers to identify what they’re looking at far below. A fair number of people were already up there; so we decided to hold off lunch until our return to Little Greenwood Overlook, where we have had lunch nearly every time we’ve climbed Borestone
Mountain. Because the heathens were hungry, we made quick time back down–with a brief pause at the visitor center to look through the telescope, at the outcrops we had so recently clambered over–to Little Greenwood. There I ate the biggest lettuce and spinach sandwich I’d ever made (another story for another time), and lay back in the sun to rest my weary bones. Sure, the beginning of the hike was hard until the lactic acid wore out of my leg muscles, but the rock-climbing to the top was easier, and coming down again was a piece of cake…and the familiar view down to Little Greenwood Pond made me happy, as it always does, that we had conquered the mountain one more time.
Molly came up with us the first couple of times, then after she got married, she didn’t any longer. Last year was the exception: she made it nearly to the first summit before quitting–she of course neglected to tell me that she was pregnant at the time (and here I thought she was just being a wimp!).
We have asked people to come with us every year, and somehow, no one ever does. This year, Ben asked a friend, as did Rosalie, and I had hoped to bring a couple along as well. They all bailed. Even my way cool sister Susan has expressed interest, but never followed through. And look what they miss!